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7 Hollywood Blockbuster Elements Del Toro Used in His Tribute Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim is Guillermo Del Toro’s tribute to Japanese Kaiju films, an enduring sub-genre in Japan, but beyond that, the film also uses some of the most effective Hollywood blockbuster elements that Del Toro weaved together into a coherent whole. This, in my humble opinion, is the reason why it actually worked. I went to see Pacific Rim expecting to be slightly underwhelmed because I had different thoughts in the back of my mind – Godzilla, Gundam, Evangelion, even the freaking Power Rangers – but I walked away satisfied.
In the wake of the human triumph over the Kaiju I was left dissecting the elements of Pacific Rim into bite-sized chunks of awesome. Seriously, these blockbuster-making film elements, when executed correctly, can really make or break a film. Tribute or not, Del Toro had a lot going for Pacific Rim simply because of the mash up of elements he put into it:
The Jaeger – The Jaeger in Pacific Rim are giant hulks of nerdgasm. Gigantic robots that intercept Kaiju as they approach civilized shores and actually fight hand to hand against them, pitting tooth and nail against steel and ammunition (in some cases). From the Japanese Gundam to the Evangelion and beyond, the Land of the Rising Sun has always had a fascination with bigger than life robots. The west too, perhaps first manifested in series like Power Rangers, held a certain regard to giant robots, though culturally Japanese “mecha” as they’re called are embraced by people of different ages whereas the first few renditions of giant robots in western entertainment usually catered to kids and the younger generation.
The Jaeger – the penultimate giant robot that symbolizes the hope of mankind – is a wondrous technological achievement. These giant robots are icons of technological development and the advancement of the human race, glazed in the awesomesauce of modern CGI.
The Kaiju – Japan has had a love-hate relationship with giant monsters ever since the start of the new Japanese era after the Imperial Japanese Army’s defeat in the Second World War. You could even say that the very first monsters that terrorized Japan in their films and shows were representations of the monstrous atomic bomb drops that wreaked similar devastation and losses near the end of WWII. The defeat of the monsters does not signify a perversion of the actual events of WWII, but instead symbolizes the triumph of the Japanese spirit and their people that led to a new era for their country. It was the triumph of recovery.
Today, Del Toro’s Kaiju – or any giant monster for that matter – can signify a lot of other things that share the same traits: vicious, larger-than-life, nigh unstoppable evil forces that come to prey on man. Who wouldn’t want to see them beaten?
The Nuclear Deus Ex Machina – Remember Avengers and the nuclear missile Tony Stark personally delivered to their alien menace to end the conflict? Well, that nuclear Deus Ex Machina is a modern common element in Hollywood blockbusters. Just like in Pacific Rim. Notice, however, that the approach to the rather controversial subject of nuclear weaponry and capability varies from film to film.
In The Avengers, the leaders behind SHIELD actually wanted to use the weapon against a civilian population to wipe out the invaders, but our heroes turned the crisis to their advantage. The nuclear weapon was a dangerous, evil element that turned out to be the ray of hope. In Pacific Rim, nuclear weaponry was never the first option to fight Kaiju, and in fact it was only used to try to close the wormhole the monsters emerged from. In Pacific Rim, the Jaeger Gipsy Danger’s power source was nuclear. In this film, nuclear capability was never an outright danger, it was in fact a reliable power source that in the end proved to be the Deus Ex Machina that allowed the protagonists to save the day. Which scenario will play out in real life, I wonder?
The Strength of the Human Bond – The Drift, a unique mind meld between the co-pilots of a Jaeger is both a nod to recent developments in the field of medical neurology and research and an allegorical play on the strength of the bond between two people. It’s strong enough to power a robot to fight monsters and save the world. This element played in really well in Pacific Rim because it allowed for effective flashbacks that lent depth to characters.
The Alien Masterminds – Since the Kaiju themselves were near mindless beasts of utter destruction, we needed an actual mastermind behind them. In the film the alien masterminds behind the Kaiju were mysterious and undiscovered until a decisive act by a dedicated scientist revealed their existence. The development ended the mystery and lifted the veil of what appeared to be pointless aggression towards the human race. There was something malevolent and tangible behind all the suffering – and it was these alien overlords.
Again, a symbolic interpretation would be that such devastation caused by something grand like war is actually spearheaded by a handful masterminds, like, say, politicians with interests or corporations with investments. Regardless of which twisted and malevolent mastermind to which grand, unstoppable monster you pick, it still reflects that mystery, that conspiracy, and you’ll still get satisfaction from at least knowing the truth behind these “monsters.”
The Human Spirit and the Fucked Up Governance – You’ll need to take a few leaps of faith with Del Toro’s Pacific Rim to truly enjoy it. One such leap of faith for me was the fact that the world actually united and pooled their resources to fight the creatures. This part of the storyline, however, displayed the resilience of the human spirit in the face of cataclysm. That’s a great selling point right there. Beyond that, however, Pacific Rim slightly jabbed at the common gripe concerning government and authority.
The Kaiju Wall project intended to replace the Jaegers proved pointless against the destructive power of a Class 4 Kaiju attack. People are wondering why their joint government would resort to unreliable measures (whispers of a stronger inner wall for “important” people led some to believe that those within the outer walls are just sacrifices). It’s rather curious that the film actually touched on this given the near total lack of government visibility, involvement, or action throughout the entire film. But yes, I guess fucked up governance is just as common a thread as the perseverance of the human spirit – two seemingly eternal concepts at odds with each other.
The Illogical Choice Favoring Style over Substance – Let’s face it, if in the movie the united government of the world decided to use such weaponry as drones and rail guns – highly technological weaponry we currently have – it wouldn’t be as flashy as having Jaegers and Kaiju duke it out mano-a-mano. For some reason, the ballistic weaponry of the Jaegers (or any weaponry at all) was only used after exchanging blows with the Kaiju and “weakening” them.
In a real fight between individuals more or less equal, they probably wouldn’t save long range weaponry for last and decide to go for a fist fight first to “weaken” each other. But Hollywood is all about choosing flashy style over substance, and this is perhaps the biggest leap of faith I was forced to make watching Pacific Rim. But hey, it was quite entertaining.
All in all, Del Toro efficiently used these seven Hollywood blockbuster elements in Pacific Rim to much acclaim and fanfare. Good job sir. Good job. Read out official review: Kaiju Smackdown.